Authorities in mountains of southwest China’s Sichuan province have come to the aid of schoolchildren who had to formerly descend an 800-meter cliff down a bamboo ladder to get to and from school – by installing a thin steel ladder at the site.
Atuler, the mountainside hamlet nicknamed “cliff village” is home to the Yi people, a minority ethnic group also found in Vietnam and Thailand.
Wooden ladders used to be the secluded village’s only way to reach the outside world, with children forced to scale the rock face to get down to their school.
Residents reported that the ladders were hundreds of years old and only replaced when one of them was found to be rotting.
The group of schoolchildren, aged between six and 15, must make the treacherous journey to reach their boarding school at the bottom of the peak. Every two weeks, they return home to visit their families, climbing back up the ladder. It takes them about two hours to scale the cliff.
After pictures surfaced of the challenging trek faced by schoolchildren, the photos caused an uproar and the prefectural government was forced to act and work on a solid set of steel stairs, complete with handrails, to help make the children’s journey safer.
While the climb remains difficult, locals said the new metal ladder installed on the side of the mountain has made a significant difference, and the climb has cut journey time by an hour for schoolchildren.
While many applaud the construction of the sturdier ladder, some netizens also wonder why villagers are not willing to move elsewhere.
But residents told the Chinese press that they don’t want to leave their homes, especially to cities where it will be difficult for them to make a living.
Api Jiti, the head of the 72-family impoverished farming community, said there had been insufficient room to build a school on the mountaintop.
The government subsequently promised to take action, and the region’s Communist party secretary said a steel staircase would be built to connect the deprived hamlet with the outside world while a permanent solution was found.